What does Alex Salmond’s arrest mean for the SNP and a second Scottish independence vote?

The SNP’s furious internal row over Nicola Sturgeon’s handling of allegations against her predecessor will rumble on in private.


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Alex Salmond, the former First Minister of Scotland and the de facto founder of the modern SNP, has been arrested by Police Scotland and is expected to appear in court this afternoon.

Although court proceedings are now active, in private the furious row within the SNP over Nicola Sturgeon’s handling of allegations against him will continue to rumble on. In the short term, that will ease the pressure on Leslie Evans, Scotland’s top civil servant, to resign over the conduct of the Scottish government’s own investigations.

Whatever happens, the breach between Sturgeon and Salmond’s strongest supporters in the party grassroots and indeed in the SNP’s parliamentary parties at Holyrood and Westminster is not going to go away. That has significant implications for Scotland’s future relationship with the rest of the United Kingdom. It makes it harder for Sturgeon to decide the timing of the next Scottish referendum based on her instinct on what maximises the chances of success, and increases the chances that she will have to call for another one at a moment not of her own choosing.

Stephen Bush is political editor of the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.